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Lessons I Need to Learn Eventually: Never, ever look at the meme when one plans on being productive on any given day. This fic has vanquished my afternoon and all intentions I had of doing homework today (hey, I got some of it done...).

This was a fill for this excellent prompt about Sherlock and John becoming a child's heroes after a grocery store holdup, and that even though Sherlock feigns disinterest in the child's welfare, John finds out years later that he was interested and helping the child all along. I had such fun with this and I really love how it turned out, so I hope everyone enjoys it!


“Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.”

- Sherlock Holmes

Heroes Might Exist 

John had made his peace with the chip and pin machine. Previously, he had declared war, until a store employee had intervened and acted as a negotiator on the machine’s behalf. The employee had been quietly diplomatic in the face of John’s rage and had successfully talked a soldier from the opposing side into a peace treaty. Since then, shopping had become a pleasurable experience. 

Shopping with Sherlock, on the other hand, was something else entirely. 

The criminals of London had been oddly silent or oddly stupid as of late—nothing interesting enough for Sherlock to tackle. For the sake of the flat’s remaining three un-bullet-ridden walls, John had ordered Sherlock to either find another hobby or, god forbid, work on cleaning the flat. Sherlock had seemed loath to begin cleaning—his papers were of crucial importance and absolutely could not be disturbed—and thus had begun an excursion into the world of breakfast foods. 

There were only so many exact specifications John could take of the type of egg that was absolutely necessary for Sherlock’s experiments on the molecular integrity of eggy bread. After Sherlock had attached three pages of typewritten instructions to John’s shopping list one Tuesday, John had laid down an ultimatum: Sherlock either had to do the shopping himself or come along when John did it. Sherlock had given in like a child just short of throwing a temper tantrum, though not without something that seemed suspiciously like pouting. 

The incident occurred during an otherwise-normal trip to Sainsbury’s. John was perusing various types of alcohol (the only way to tolerate some of Sherlock’s more eccentric habits was to, once in a while, get very, very drunk) while Sherlock deliberated between two bottles of cooking sherry. (Following his soon-to-be-concluded breakfast experiments, he was going to embark upon dinner. It was a terrifying proposition and one John was desperately hoping could not be any worse than the meals he’d eaten in the military.) 

From further down the aisle came the shouts of what sounded like a domestic dispute. It was utterly banal and something Sherlock was not going to involve himself in, but when a woman screamed, John set down the bottle of wine he’d been holding and all but sprinted towards the sound, practically slamming into the woman. The man had grabbed a bottle of something and ran off, but as much as John itched to pursue him, he needed information. He stood in front of her, holding her shoulders and looking into the woman’s eyes, trying to get a coherent statement out of her. “Ma’am, what happened? What’s going on?” 

Judging by the apron, the woman was an employee, and she was sobbing as she looked up at John. “He’s—he’s got a gun and h-he’s—headed towards the registers—” 

John looked at Sherlock, who nodded, and John took off, that adrenaline rush having kicked in the minute he heard the word gun. He had to remind himself he didn’t have his service revolver or any sort of reliable backup, had to remind himself that he couldn’t take the types of risks he’d been able to back in Afghanistan. No, he was on his own this time. 

Well, not quite on his own. There was Sherlock. 

He found the man without much difficulty—after all, it didn’t take Sherlock’s deductive skills to pick out a hulking man holding a gun to the head of a teenage cashier who was scared shitless. The man’s head was shaved and he had more muscles than many of John’s Army buddies. Really, the whole thing was a cliché, and it would have been funny if John had seen the whole situation on the news. It wasn’t so funny when you were living it. 

The guy was drunk and sloppy, taking periodic swigs from the bottle of Bacardi 151 he’d opened by smashing its neck against the register. The cashier, to his credit, was refusing to give up the money. Nearby shoppers were trickling out of the aisles to see what was going on. Many abandoned their carts and ran the second they saw the gun, managing to escape and—John could only hope—call the authorities. He turned his head the slightest bit, not taking his eyes off the robber—he could see Sherlock just two aisles down, waiting just beside a display of tomato sauce in glass jars stacked almost to the ceiling. He gave him the slightest possible nod, and Sherlock ducked behind it, out of sight of the robber. Backup. 

“ALL RIGHT!” Muscles hollered, waving the gun for emphasis as he turned away from the cashier and to the shoppers. “Nobody is moving from this place until I get what I want, you hear? Nobody. Anybody else leaves and I start shooting.” 

“MUMMY! I want my mummy! MUMMY!” 

The wail of a child from somewhere nearby, closely followed by terrified sobbing and incoherent screams. This riled Muscles up even more, and he fired a warning shot, making everyone scream and duck. Even John flinched just the slightest bit at the sound, a twinge of pain starting in his shoulder. He clamped his teeth at the sound and hoped against hope for the child to stop screaming. He’d seen enough dead children in Afghanistan—he didn’t want to see another one today. 

“SOMEBODY SHUT THAT KID UP!” Muscles yelled, before ordering the shoppers to sit down in a line on the floor—easier for him to see them all that way. John obeyed—it was the only thing he could do, right now—and had to breathe a slight sigh of relief when he realized the girl had stopped screaming. 

Meanwhile, two aisles down, Sherlock was on his knees, having grabbed the screaming child—a blonde girl, five years old, wearing overalls and a pink-and-white striped shirt—about the waist. Her screams had quieted to whimpers as she looked at her left arm, scraped and stained red with blood and the contents of a broken jar of tomato sauce that had tumbled from the display as a result of her frantic search for her mother. 

“I want my mummy,” she whined to Sherlock, and as she struggled to get free from his hold, he grasped her tighter, trying to listen for any sounds of the robber giving orders, for any sound of John making a move. “Mister, you’re hurting me! Let me go!” 

If you insist on making noise—” Sherlock started, about to outline the list of very bad things that could be done to this girl or her mummy if she didn’t quiet down, but the tearful look the girl gave him reminded him of John’s occasional lectures. 

Sherlock sighed, unwrapping his arms from around the girl’s waist but keeping a tight grasp on her shoulder. He took his scarf around his neck and turned the girl to him, wrapping her arm in it to sop up the tomato sauce and hopefully staunch whatever blood was still flowing. “There. Does anything hurt anymore?” 

The girl shook her head, and some of the distrust disappeared from her eyes as she stared down at the purple scarf and then back up at him. She trusted him enough not to move when he took his hand off of her shoulder. He thought of what John would do in this situation—John, who he needed to understand situations like this. “What’s your name?” 

“Sophie,” the girl sniffed, wiping at her eyes. “What’s yours?” 

“Sherlock. Now, Sophie—” 

“That’s a funny name.” 

“I’m aware. Now, Sophie, you must be quiet if you don’t want that man to hurt your mummy. Do you understand?” 

Sophie nodded, but at the mention of her mother, the tears welled in her eyes again. “I’m scared, Mr. Sherlock.” 

He didn’t know how to respond to that—was always not quite sure what to say when others mentioned their emotions, something he couldn’t always understand. Fear was something Sherlock Holmes had stopped giving himself the luxury of feeling. 

He rummaged in his pockets, producing his Blackberry—a gift from Mycroft—from one and handing it to Sophie. “Do you know what this is, Sophie?” 

“Mummy says they’re bad. She calls them Crackberries.” 

“Mummy might say that, but right now, you can play a game with it. Do you see?” He showed her the Hangman app Mycroft had installed—he insisted it was fun; Sherlock had declared it useless and trivial the second he came up against an inane pop-cultural puzzle he couldn’t solve—and then stood, leaving Sophie to the game as he edged to the end of the aisle. He stood just where John could see him, and when John nodded, he walked out of the aisle, after a quick glance behind him to make sure Sophie was still absorbed in the game. He fished in his pocket for something, holding enough of it exposed in his hand that John could make out what it was. A second brief nod from John showed him he understood. 

Muscles whirled around, seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, and John felt one of his hands clench into a tight fist as he aimed the gun at Sherlock. Still, the robber was distracted, and he scrambled up while he could, ducking behind the register and edging around to behind Muscles, positioning himself behind him and moving silently enough that he wouldn’t hear his approach. 

“Get in the line!” Muscles shouted, using his gun to point at Sherlock and then to the line of hostages sitting on the floor. Two of them had edged closer to fill the gap left by John, and none of them, thankfully, were stupid enough to be looking at him as he crept closer. “Get back in the line, asshole!” 

“Poor choice of drink, I must say,” Sherlock said, advancing slowly, his fist still clenched around the object, something Muscles caught onto. 

“What’ve you got in your hand? Open your hand, smartass! Telling me what to drink—what are you, the police?” 

Sherlock obliged, opening his hand and revealing the matches he kept on him to light the Bunsen burner back in Baker Street. “Matches. That’s all. I merely told you what to drink because if you’re dense enough not to realize that Bacardi 151 is highly flammable—” 

That was John’s cue. He took advantage of Muscles’ distraction, grabbing the bottle from his hands and drenching him in the remainder of the alcohol, soldier reflexes working faster than Muscles could react— 

“—you wouldn’t have been stupid enough to continue holding it once I said I was carrying matches.” 

*** 

Muscles gave in surprisingly easy after that. As it turned out, he didn’t want to kill anyone as much as he didn’t want to die in a fiery blaze, and he’d given up the robbery and waited quietly until the police arrived. 

John and Sherlock were the heroes of the hour. BAKER STREET MEN THWART INEBRIATED ROBBER: that was the headline they would wake up to the next morning, after a blitz of interviews and photographs. 

Sherlock retrieved his scarf and Blackberry from Sophie, and John used the first aid kit given to him by the Sainsbury’s workers to patch up the scrapes on her arm, telling her funny stories all the while to distract her from the pain as he picked out stray shards of glass. Sherlock keenly observed his easy rapport with Sophie, taking note—so this was how one was supposed to interact with children. 

“Sophie! Sophie! Oh, Sophie, are you all right? Did you get hurt?” 

A frantic woman practically shoved Sherlock aside to reach Sophie, grabbing John by his shoulder. “Is my daughter going to be all right?” 

John almost wanted to laugh, but he smothered it, knowing this woman had to have been frightened out of her mind during all that. “She’s fine. Just got scraped by a broken jar, that’s all. All patched up now.” 

“Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Sophie, come on, let’s go home—” 

“Mummy!” Sophie protested as she was hoisted into her mother’s arms, pointing over the woman’s shoulder—and straight at Sherlock. “You forgot to thank Mr. Sherlock, too! Mr. John made my arm stop hurting, but Mr. Sherlock gave me a Crackberry and let me play a game.” 

Sophie’s mother raised an eyebrow, but she turned to Sherlock nonetheless. “Julie McKinnon… you must be the one who calmed her down. I was so worried he’d—” She hesitated, closing her eyes and having to shake herself off before she reached out, pulling Sherlock into a cumbersome hug, given that Sophie was still in her arms. Sophie reached out with one skinny arm, looping it around Sherlock, and Sherlock awkwardly returned the embrace, giving John a look. The smirk John had been wearing promptly decamped from his face, and he turned away, innocently packing up the first aid supplies. 

*** 

It started with a crayon drawing from Sophie in the mail the week after the incident. It was a crude, childish rendering of her standing with Sherlock and John in a Sainsbury’s aisle, her hands linked in one each of theirs. John was amused by it, putting it on the fridge with a magnet, smirking and shaking his head when Sherlock pointed out the numerous inaccuracies in the picture (the length of his coat compared to his legs, the number of stripes on John’s jumper, etc.). 

Julie brought Sophie around to the flat three weeks later, telling John with an apologetic laugh that Sophie had been cajoling to see them for weeks. Mr. McKinnon came as well, slapping John on  the shoulder and thanking him sincerely, including Sherlock in the gesture with a nod that went unacknowledged, as Sherlock was attempting to play his violin. 

Sophie tugged gently at his trouser leg. “Mr. Sherlock? What instrument is that?” 

“A violin.” 

“Can I see it?” 

There was a brusque “no” and mumblings about not letting a child near so valuable an instrument as Sherlock got up and gathered up the instrument and his papers, though he did offer Sophie a distracting and (somewhat patronizing, John felt) pat on the head as he passed and went into his room. 

Sophie was able to control her emotions surprisingly well for a child, provided she wasn’t in a life-threatening situation, and the only sign of her disappointment at Mr. Sherlock’s snub was a slight tremble of her lip, which quickly disappeared when John offered her a sweet. 

*** 

Arguing with Sherlock about it was pointless. That night, John stood in his door, arms crossed, trying to get Sherlock to look up from his violin long enough to participate in the row. 

“Sherlock, she thinks of you as her hero. You could be courteous for three minutes of your life and say hello to her at the very least!” 

A glare from his flatmate, and John almost expected the next sentence out of his mouth to be accompanied by petulant eye-rolling. “John, I’m a consulting detective, not a babysitter. I have more important things to do than looking out for a child to whom I have no genetic relation.” 

It was John who ended up doing the eye-rolling. He shut the door behind him. 

*** 

At Christmas, a card arrived, plastered with a photo of Mr. and Mrs. McKinnon and Sophie, wishing them happy holidays. Inside, John found a photo of Sophie playing a violin, and scrawled on the back was a note. 

She loves it! Thank Sherlock for us; she got the idea from him. xx, Julie. 

Every few months, they received e-mails from Sophie using Julie’s e-mail address. John found them charming and always responded; Sherlock criticized the state of Sophie’s grammar and spelling, and John always ignored his fervent pleas to be allowed to send her back an edited version of their correspondence. 

Over the years, Sophie McKinnon never forgot them. 

When she broke her arm two years after the attempted robbery, she insisted on being taken to John’s hospital so that he could set it for her. 

For an essay assignment when she was ten, she wrote about her childhood heroes, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. 

When she was fourteen, she was among the first to send John a congratulatory e-mail upon seeing the news in the paper that his blog about his and Sherlock’s cases had been picked up by a major publishing house. He sent her an autographed advance copy. 

Despite John’s protests, Sherlock never did show too much interest in Sophie, always shrugging off her various gestures and offering the bare minimum whenever John wrote to her. John worked with it, always adding in a line like, Sherlock sends his best or Sherlock wants to know how your violin lessons are coming? to the end of his emails. 

When Sophie was nineteen, John invited her and the rest of the McKinnons to his wedding to Mary Morstan, asking her to play the wedding march on her violin as Mary walked down the aisle. Sherlock stood up with him as his best man, and on John’s urging, offered Sophie a few clipped compliments on her playing. 

Sophie was the McKinnon who sent John flowers and a sympathy card three years later upon seeing the name Mary Morstan-Watson in the obituaries. 

At twenty-three, Sophie got a job with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was nothing special; nothing about her playing was going to stand out, but it was clearly something she was excited about, and she sent John an invitation to the first concert she’d be playing in. Since Mary’s death, John had been traveling—seeing the United States, like he and Mary had always planned to—but when Mrs. Hudson forwarded him his mail, he received the invitation and sent Sophie a note back, saying he could make it on the final night. 

In her email, Sophie had told him to wait in the lobby after the performance, and he obliged, standing around until he heard her call out for him. “John! Right here.” 

He turned, grinning as he saw Sophie emerging from backstage, her violin case still in her hand, her blonde hair loose around her shoulders. She was so elegant in her black dress that it was hard for him to believe that this was the same girl whose arm he’d wiped clean of tomato sauce and bandaged eighteen years earlier. 

“Sophie, it’s so good to see you. Congratulations!” he said, pulling her into a hug as she set her violin case on the floor and wrapped her arms around him. 

“Thanks, John. It’s great to see you, too. How have you been doing?” she asked sympathetically, knowing it was coming up on a year since Mary’s death. John gave a slightly pained smile, telling her things were better—lately, they had been. 

In celebration of her last show, John offered to take her out for a meal, and Sophie agreed, directing him to an Italian restaurant down the block. As they sat in a booth, Sophie sipped at a glass of wine, looking up as John nodded to the violin and said, “Have you heard from Sherlock at all lately? He would have been thrilled you got a job with the Philharmonic.” 

Sophie smiled, laughing some. “Oh, he was. Mum sent him a thank you card; wouldn’t have been possible without him.”

“Because you saw him playing the violin that one time?”

Sophie raised an eyebrow, shaking her head. “Not just that. He was the one who paid for the violin, actually—all the lessons over the years, too. It was so generous of him; Mum and Dad tried to talk him out of it, but he was very insistent.”

“I’m—I’m sorry, Sherlock? Did all of that?” John asked, resisting the urge to sputter—he couldn’t see it, but then… maybe he could. There was a depth of feeling to Sherlock that John only saw on occasion, but he had seen it more often than not in the past year, had seen it a year before when Sherlock had been the first one to come running when Mary had been hospitalized.

“More than that. He used to let me come by the flat when you were at work, helped me with my science homework. Actually,” she laughed, shaking her head as she remembered, “one day I was late because some idiot kids who’d been bullying me were chasing me. They were making fun of me—saying you and Sherlock didn’t exist, that I was making you guys up as an excuse so they wouldn’t touch me—and they followed me to Baker Street. Sherlock—he was waiting for me outside, and he told them off with this… very long list of all the things that would be done to them in prison if they kept harassing me or anyone else. I think he scared them so straight they never put a toe out of line again.”

She looked up as she set down her wine glass, tilting her head slightly as she noticed John’s dumfounded expression. “You never knew? He never told you any of that?”

John shook his head, beyond confused at this point—past confused but, honestly, touched. “He never did… he always seemed to act like he was annoyed by you, to be honest. All those emails I sent, he never used to even say anything—always had to make up something and hope you wouldn’t catch on.”

Sophie smiled, taking a ponytail holder from her wrist and reaching up to tie back her hair. “You wrote in your book that he used to say heroes don’t exist. I think he had it wrong. All those years ago, the two of you were the reason I knew they did exist.”

Since he’d lost Mary, John had felt a lot of things—mainly, the erosion of his faith in most things, in God and the fairness of the universe and hope. That dinner with Sophie ended up teaching him one thing: that if Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate nonbeliever in heroes, could end up being one to a little girl all throughout her childhood, maybe there was hope after all.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
scribble55178
Apr. 4th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
OP
Commented on the meme already but wanted to leave it here also.

This was wonderful!!!! I can't believe how quickly you turned out something as perfect and charming as this!! You had me at the quote at the beginning!

I loved your solution for taking out the robber! And both Sherlock and John were very in character. I would not want Sherlock after me if I was a bully, that's for sure!

So many nice touches worked into it from John getting published and MARY. And great personality developed for Sophie and her family. Oh my gosh.

Thank you so very much! It's great!!! Now get back to that homework ;)
haveloved
Apr. 4th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
Re: OP
Hi! Thank you so much! I'm always mildly terrified with prompt fills because I can never know for certain if it's what the prompter wanted, so getting feedback like this is always so wonderful.

The solution for taking out the robber led to at least ten minutes of typing "what types of alcohol are flammable?" into search engines, so thank you for that, lol.

I had so much fun with this, especially thinking of how Sherlock would have been with her, and then considering how things would have turned out in Sherlock and John's futures. Thank you so much for the amazing prompt; it was so much fun! :D
rabidsamfan
Apr. 4th, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Awww. That's very sweet.
donutsweeper
Apr. 4th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
omg this is just, I mean it's so *flails* Just awww Sherlock and John didn't know and Sophie is so cute and

And apparently this has made me incoherent. Loved it!
haveloved
Apr. 4th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
Hehe, thank you! :D
random_nexus
Apr. 4th, 2011 04:03 am (UTC)
This was so very good! I liked the way they worked in the store to foil the nut with the gun and the way Sherlock acted like he couldn't care less when he was being awesome all the while. So good, so enjoyable!

Well done, you.
haveloved
Apr. 4th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
Thank you! (Although now I'm really expecting campus police to come knocking on my door demanding to know why I was searching Yahoo for what types of alcohol are flammable. ;D)
supermusicmad
Apr. 4th, 2011 06:14 am (UTC)
Ahh this is wonderful! Just wonderful. :) I love how Sherlock is comforting to the poor kid in the robbery, but also perfectly in-character-ly awkward. XD You build up Sophie's character and the boys' relationship with her really well, and I can totally imagine John at his wedding saying out of the corner of his mouth to Sherlock,"Go on, say something nice about her, for God's sake!" :D
haveloved
Apr. 5th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
Thank you! :) I usually have a bit of trouble writing Sherlock--I always feel as though I'm not smart enough to be tackling his dialogue!--so I'm glad he came off as in-character here.

I had a ton of fun working through their relationship with Sophie, and the wedding scene in my head is just as you described. I picture John having to, like, elbow him or something before he'd finally say something, lol.
the_tire_swing
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:06 am (UTC)
This delights my soul! Lovely fill.
haveloved
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
maypanic
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Awww! So sweet, I really enjoyed this. The last paragraph is especially lovely.
haveloved
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you; I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)
edainwen
Jun. 24th, 2015 01:15 am (UTC)
owww i can't even joke with the tardis becouse this was a beuty of fic. and that I still have the song i was listening early of pavarotti nessun dorma and that the best is the scalate of song truly it make it 'remarcable' thanks a lot for the fic.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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